CommunityFDL Main Blog

Carl Levin Blows Up the War Surtax

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) / photo: Matt Hampel via Flickr

Sen. Carl Levin (D-Mich.) / photo: Matt Hampel via Flickr

Here’s a bit of a lesson in why Democrats have trouble governing.

On the eve of the President announcing his war strategy in Afghanistan, critics of the policy have used the cost as a primary reason for their opposition. They could have used the argument that our presence in Afghanistan does nothing for our national security, fuels the insurgency and props up a corrupt government that inflames the local population, leading to no good outcomes whatsoever, but they went with cost. And David Obey put together a plan in the House to pay for the war through a graduated tax, the argument being that sacrifice must be shared and those cheerleading for more war should at least contribute something to it.

This has touched off a major debate inside the Republican Party, forking them between the war fever and the anti-tax fervor of their base. This was in full display on the Sunday morning shows, with Republicans from various wings of the party clashing over the concept of a war surtax. Richard Lugar (R-IN) called it a worthwhile notion on CNN, while Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on ABC called for cuts in domestic spending to pay for the war, the expected position for proponents of limited government and unlimited war.

This exchange on ABC was notable, featuring two ex-Bush Administration officials in opposition to each other on this idea:

DAN SENOR: Let’s be honest about what this is about. It’s about a campaign against President Obama’s troops surge. It’s not really about paying for it. It’s about arguing against it.

GEORGE WILL: And there’s going to be no surtax. We all agree on that. So everyone, relax.

MATTHEW DOWD: I agree with you. There is not going to be a tax. But I think this goes to a fundamental value that I think we lost, which is that we can get things for nothing. That we can go to war and not have to pay for it either by cutting the budget or doing something else. We have a war; we don’t have a draft. All of these sorts of things, that we think, ‘Oh, by way, we can go fight the most important war in the history of our country, but we’re not going to have a draft, we’re not going to pay for it, we’re not going to do anything that causes anybody to sacrifice.’

SENOR: If [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [House Appropriations Committee Chairman David] Obey were being intellectually honest about this they would wage a war against the President’s surge policy Wednesday morning. As opposed to doing this via some proposed surtax.

[Snip]

DOWD: David Obey’s idea I think underlines the problem that we don’t ask people — when we say these things are important — we don’t ask the country to come together for them.

Most notable about this exchange is the casual remarks from George Will and Matthew Dowd that there will not be a surtax. They know that because Carl Levin told them he would back down on a separate show today.

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee backed off his support for a war tax today, saying the state of the economy prevents any tax increases.

“Well in the middle of a recession we’re probably not going to be able to increase taxes,” Levin told CBS’s Face the Nation.

Levin still supports the idea of a surtax, but says it “should have happened some time ago.”

Unbelievable. Political parties used to do this thing where they forced the opposition into tough votes that they could use in elections later. Apparently that’s not part of current thinking in the Democratic Party. They also used to offer legislation that they agreed with, but that’s by the boards too.

A war surtax would really give Republicans trouble, in addition to being the right policy, to show the real cost of war, instead of living in this fantasy world where our actions abroad have no effect on our actions at home. But Democratic threats have been proven to be so idle over the years that nobody accords them a smidgen of respect. And thus we have a failure to govern.

CommunityThe Bullpen

Carl Levin Blows Up The War Surtax

Here’s a bit of a lesson in why Democrats have trouble governing.

On the eve of the President announcing his war strategy in Afghanistan, critics of the policy have used the cost as a primary reason for their opposition. They could have used the argument that our presence in Afghanistan does nothing for our national security, fuels the insurgency and props up a corrupt government that inflames the local population, leading to no good outcomes whatsoever, but they went with cost. And David Obey put together a plan in the House to pay for the war through a graduated tax, the argument being that sacrifice must be shared and those cheerleading for more war should at least contribute something to it.

This has touched off a major debate inside the Republican Party, forking them between the war fever and the anti-tax fervor of their base. This was in full display on the Sunday morning shows, with Republicans from various wings of the party clashing over the concept of a war surtax. Richard Lugar (R-IN) called it a worthwhile notion on CNN, while Lindsey Graham (R-SC) on ABC called for cuts in domestic spending to pay for the war, the expected position for proponents of limited government and unlimited war.

This exchange on ABC was notable, featuring two ex-Bush Administration officials in opposition to each other on this idea:

DAN SENOR: Let’s be honest about what this is about. It’s about a campaign against President Obama’s troops surge. It’s not really about paying for it. It’s about arguing against it.

GEORGE WILL: And there’s going to be no surtax. We all agree on that. So everyone, relax.

MATTHEW DOWD: I agree with you. There is not going to be a tax. But I think this goes to a fundamental value that I think we lost, which is that we can get things for nothing. That we can go to war and not have to pay for it either by cutting the budget or doing something else. We have a war; we don’t have a draft. All of these sorts of things, that we think, ‘Oh, by way, we can go fight the most important war in the history of our country, but we’re not going to have a draft, we’re not going to pay for it, we’re not going to do anything that causes anybody to sacrifice.’

SENOR: If [House Speaker Nancy] Pelosi and [House Appropriations Committee Chairman David] Obey were being intellectually honest about this they would wage a war against the President’s surge policy Wednesday morning. As opposed to doing this via some proposed surtax.

[Snip]

DOWD: David Obey’s idea I think underlines the problem that we don’t ask people — when we say these things are important — we don’t ask the country to come together for them.

Most notable about this exchange is the casual remarks from George Will and Matthew Dowd that there will not be a surtax. They know that because Carl Levin told them he would back down on a separate show today.

The chairman of the Armed Services Committee backed off his support for a war tax today, saying the state of the economy prevents any tax increases.

“Well in the middle of a recession we’re probably not going to be able to increase taxes,” Levin told CBS’s Face the Nation.

Levin still supports the idea of a surtax, but says it “should have happened some time ago.”

Unbelievable. Political parties used to do this thing where they forced the opposition into tough votes that they could use in elections later. Apparently that’s not part of current thinking in the Democratic Party. They also used to offer legislation that they agreed with, but that’s by the boards too.

A war surtax would really give Republicans trouble, in addition to being the right policy, to show the real cost of war, instead of living in this fantasy world where our actions abroad have no effect on our actions at home. But Democratic threats have been proven to be so idle over the years that nobody accords them a smidgen of respect. And thus we have a failure to govern.

Previous post

Whom the gods would destroy, part 3: The crisis in Honduras

Next post

This Is Not A Photograph Tribal Society

David Dayen

David Dayen